Guest Column: Reply to Special Report: ‘Real Healthcare reform’—part one

Editor’s note: The following is in response to the Sept. 2-8, 2009, article “Special Report: ‘Real Healthcare Reform’ program at Stockholm Inn—part one.”

By Derek B. Ellison

As the debate over national health care reform has grown increasingly heated, it’s become more and more difficult to separate fact from fiction based on newspaper accounts alone, despite journalists’ best efforts. In that spirit, here are a few points people should know the truth about before reform comes up for final votes in Congress. I have been following this all summer, and I believe this issue is crucial to our nation’s future.

I am simply a concerned citizen, and I am not a paid advocate. As I understand it, Dr. Mark Kellen, president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, is a paid advocate. [Dr. Kellan was one of the presenters at the Aug. 3 event at Stockholm Inn, hosted by Concerned Citizens for America, a political lobbing group that describes itself as “pro-life, pro-Second Amendment and pro-fiscal responsibility.”] I am left to wonder why any news organization would basically provide a forum for a paid advocate and not get an opposing viewpoint. Before I get started on health care, I have a brief point about Cash for Clunkers. Cash for Clunkers was a misguided attempt to stimulate the economy in a government-sponsored push-pull or drag sale. Cash for Clunkers sold a large number of cars, but many of these were Japanese cars. Cash for Clunkers program may help to reduce our long-term dependence on foreign oil. That program has nothing to do with health care reform. A government health care program would be more like the VA or Medicare.

1. Under the bills being considered, there is a provision to encourage people to get living wills. This is NOT a provision to limit care to elderly. It allows every person to put what care they do and do not want in writing. It also covers the consultation fees involved in doing this. This provision also ties doctors’ quality rating to how well they carry out people’s living wills. This is important because it allows individuals the option to decide for themselves what they want done, even if the medical conditions prevent them from communication.

2. Illegal immigrants are getting health care. None of the proposed plans covers illegal immigrants. However, right now it is unlawful to deny emergency care to people, even if they are here illegally. None of the plans proposed changes that.

3. A public option will not remove your choice to buy private insurance. It simply provides the choice to buy insurance through the government. This is different from single-payer health care. In single-payer health care, which is very different from the proposed public option, every citizen has a type of health insurance paid by the government and supported by taxes. Even in countries that have a single-payer system, it is possible and legal for a citizen to buy private insurance.

4. Consumer protection is important even if there is no public option. It has also been proposed that it should be illegal to refuse to sell insurance based on a pre-existing condition, and the legislation proposed would also limit how much extra can be charged based on these conditions.

5th. This is an economic issue, not just an ethical one. One of the reasons GM cited for not making more money or paying its workers more for years, until they went bankrupt, was health care costs. International companies have options on where to build factories and create jobs. If private health insurance is what is expected, then the cost of private health insurance will have the same economic effect of a tax. Higher costs of doing business kill jobs, no matter where these costs come from. On a side note, I don’t believe lowering taxes on business and wages simply will do much to draw in jobs to the U.S., because of the extreme cost of living differences between the U.S. and the poorest parts of the world. However, government services effectively reduce the cost-of-doing business, because private companies do not have to pay for them. Controlling health care cost is paramount. In the U.S., we pay about 200 percent of what other industrialized nations, like France or Canada or Sweden, pay per citizen on health care. We spend much more per person than countries with single-payer systems. As private insurance has gone up 60 percent since the year 2000, continuing on the same course we are on now could be the biggest job killer.

6. Most uninsured people work. About 60 percent work for or own a small business. Because of how group plans work, it is harder for small businesses to participate.

7. Canadians have a great health care system. Canadians enjoy a higher life expectancy and lower infant mortality rate compared to the U.S. The lottery people talk about is mainly for experiment treatments. Canada has a much lower population density than the U.S., so achieving these numbers is very impressive. Especially, considering how much further on average people are from hospitals. Canada has a single-payer system.

8. Sadly, the U.S. health care system is not No. 1 in several key statistics. In life expectancy and infant mortality, we are currently not even in the top 25. But we are No. 1 in health care spending.

Derek B. Ellison is a resident of Loves Park.

From the September 9-15, 2009 issue

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